Chief opposition lawmaker arrested, taken to custodial jail

Chief opposition lawmaker Ibrahim Mohamed Solih who was arrested during Friday's anti-government protest in the capital Male has been taken to the custodial jail in Dhoonidhoo island, his party said Saturday.

The now united opposition had announced the mass protest for Friday and urged people from all corners of the island nation to flock to the capital Male.

Police having warned the public not to join the protest which it described as an attempt to overthrow the government had arrested several leading protesters before the protest got underway in a major intersection of the capital Male around 8.30pm.

Dozens of masked riot police had descended on the protesters with force and took three opposition Raajje TV journalists into custody.

The protesters led by chief opposition lawmaker Ibrahim Mohamed Solih headed to the Republic Square which had been blocked off by the army.

In the ensuing clashes, police had used tear gas and pepper spray to disperse the protesters while several more were taken into custody which included opposition lawmakers.

Police on Saturday said though 141 had been arrested, 139 people including 26 women remain in custody over the clashes with the security forces.

Several protesters were reportedly injured while the police had claimed that some police officers had also been injured in the clashes before the protest finally petered out past 2am.

The united opposition has been carrying out nightly protests in the capital Male calling on the government to release political prisoners and enforce the Supreme Court order of February 1.

The island nation has been embroiled in fresh political turmoil after the Supreme Court on February 1 ordered the immediate release of jailed political leaders including self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed.

President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom on February 5 had declared a 15 day state of emergency after his last ditch attempt to convince the top court to revoke the order failed, purged the Supreme Court by arresting two judges and the remaining political leaders and ultimately had the order revoked.

As the state of emergency expired, president Yameen had got the parliament contentiously extend it by another 30 days.

President Yameen is facing mounting pressure even within the security forces after exploiting the rights suspended under emergency state to crackdown hard on the opposition as police have made a series of high profile arrests including former president Gayoom, three lawmakers, chief justice Abdulla Saeed, top court judge Ali Hameed and the chief judicial administrator.